Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Soundtrack of the season: 20 songs for the summer

Summer has arrived in the valley, so below is a 20-song soundtrack to enhance your enjoyment of the season. The guiding factor in the compiling of this list is that every song features the word summer in its title.

“Summertime” — Billie Holiday (1936)
This oft-covered jazz standard was composed by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera “Porgy and Bess.” Holiday's version is one of the earliest and most iconic.

“Summertime Blues” — Eddie Cochrane (1958)
A classic example of 1950s rock and roll teen angst. Years later The Who would crank the volume up on the song on the “Live at Leeds” album.

“Summertime, Summertime” — The Jamies (1958)
A one-hit wonder about putting your books away for, you guessed it, summertime. If you missed it the first time though it is repeated several times.

“Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer”— Nat King Cole (1963)
The title track of an album full of cheery, lighthearted songs about summer. The song's somewhat silly lyrics harken back to a more innocent time.

“All Summer Long” — The Beach Boys (1964)
What is the summer without The Beach Boys? Enough said.

“Summer In The City” — The Lovin' Spoonful (1966)
This number-one hit remains one of the quintessential songs of the 1960s and with its use of car horns and jackhammers does indeed capture the vibe of summer in the city.

“Long Hot Summer Night” —The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
Most people associate Hendrix with wailing guitar anthems, but if you dig deeper you can find album cuts like this one that have a chiller jibe, but rock just as hard.

“Hot Fun In The Summertime” — Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
Released shortly after the band's appearance at Woodstock, this became a big hit that, thanks to powerhouse vocals and catchy horns, remains a classic of the era.

“One Summer Dream” — Electric Light Orchestra (1975)
A beautiful ballad that like many Electric Light Orchestra songs recalls John Lennon. Jeff Lynn has a tendency to over-produce, but when he let's the music breathe he can soar as high as Lennon.

“Lonely Summer Nights” — Stray Cats (1981)
Amongst the New Wave movement the Stray Cats helped to lead a rockabilly revival. This melancholy lament would sit perfectly next to many similar ballads from the 1950s.

“Summer Of Love” — The B-52's (1986)
One of the more idiosyncratic and enduring bands to emerge from the New Wave scene. This is a fine example of their colorful lyrics and fresh blending of sounds.

“Summertime” — DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (1991)
Will Smith's goofy good-spirited rapping was an oasis when gangsta rap surfaced in the late 1980s. His brand of fun hip hop would ultimately sling shot him to mega wattage movie star status.

“A Summer Wasting” — Belle & Sebastian (1998)
This folky-pop band from Scotland is known for writing low-key wistful songs and this is a prime example of the cheery love songs that are their trademark.

“Summer Days” — Phoenix (2000)
A country-tinged song from the English-singing alternative French band that is as upbeat as a warm summer day.

“Feels Like Summer Again” — The Wallflowers (2002)
Jakob Dylan, the driving force behind The Wallflowers, will never be his father Bob Dylan, but he's a talented writer of crisp, clever pop songs. Plus he can sing better too.

“Summertime in Wintertime” — Badly Drawn Boy (2004)
An eclectic performer who throws different genres at will into a Brit-pop formula. This particular track jams along with Jethro Tull-esque flute wailing in the background.

“Summer In The City” — Regina Spektor (2006)
This is not a cover of the Lovin' Spoonful song, but a simple piano-based ballad that is full of yearning and Spektor's quirky singing style.

“Summer's End” — Foo Fighters (2007)
Foo Fighters remain one of the most reliable sources of pure, unpretentious pop-rock. Here frontman Dave Grohl adds a country flavor to a driving 70s rock formula to excellent effect.

“The Summer” — Coconut Records (2009)
This is actor Jason Schwartzman's one-man band. What sounds like a vanity fueled side project is actually quite the opposite. This is just one of many catchy, well-written songs from Schwartzman.

“Summertime” — Barenaked Ladies (2010)
Steven Page, one of the primary songwriters and co-frontman of the band, recently went solo, but as evidenced by their new album, it looks like the rest of the Ladies are doing just fine without him.